The return of student movements as a social force

History this week No.52 /2011

Stabroek News Thursday, March 24, 2011

‘It was telling that Obama said in his 2010 State of the Union Address that universities would have to make more sacrifices in the current economy. FDR gave a similar speech once, except he called on the captains of industry and bankers to make sacrifices, not public employees and universities.’ Okla Elliott, asitoughttobe.com, 3 March 2011

Last month in CounterPunch, in the article ‘Why Madison matters’, scholar and policy researcher Andrew Levine wrote: “Almost overnight, the world changed. Madison (Wisconsin) became Ground Zero in America’s domestic class struggle; and, just as amazing, labor launched an uprising in defense of union rights which thousands of students joined.”

There are two things that Levine finds amazing here. First, he finds it amazing that class struggle and a labour movement have found new life in the US. Given American labour history of recent decades, this is reason enough to be amazed. A second amazement was the fact that a student movement and a labour movement were working in solidarity with one another.  This is a remarkable development for the American scene, where student-worker alliances remained largely matters of theory in the 1960s (not realized as a concrete reality as they were in some other countries).

Levine noted that in the US in the 1960s, one major reason for the failure of a real student-worker movement to materialise was the fact that the majority of the American working class did not support the student anti-war movement. On asitoughttobe.com on 13 March, I argued that the main reason that the present situation is different was that:

“Unlike the labor-capital pact that supported the military industrial complex of post WWII America, many more working people in the US today see a connection not between military spending and their livelihoods as workers in the military-industrial complex. Rather, the experience of today’s working class and poor is that spending on never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has created a federal debt crisis in the US that the government attempts to partially offset through dollars saved by the destruction of what remains of a social safety net and basic social services. The same class fraction that once formed the American ‘labor aristocracy’ now, incredibly, has begun to see the truth that Martin Luther King, Jr, among others, articulated in the US during the late 1960s: that the anti-war movement, and the movement for social and economic justice in the United States, are indeed a part of the same struggle and the same fight.”

If the American working class has stripped away some of its illusions about the War Economy, American students have also stripped away some of their illusions that gaining a tertiary education will guarantee them the possibility of rising above their class. “We see students in the United States and elsewhere faced with the harsh reality that, in spite of their higher level of education, they have no reasonable basis by which to believe that they will do better, or even as well, as their parents’ generation did economically.” The US is one of many countries where this scenario is true. About the UK I wrote: “Something of this same realization lies behind what has driven the recent student movement in the UK. Sparked in part by drastic tuition hikes put into place by the new Lib-Dem/Conservative coalition government, one interesting fact about the UK movement was the widespread participation of secondary school students. This is perhaps because the tuition hikes end the illusion of a meritocracy, and signal that even those poor and working class students who worked hard and achieved high test scores will increasingly be locked out of tertiary education.  Locked out of the possibility of rising above their class by way of higher education, poor and working class students face a bleak future, with dwindling opportunities for employment without further education, accompanied by dwindling opportunities for advancement by pursuing diplomas and degrees through the university system.”

In the US, students and workers in Wisconsin were responding to the newly elected ‘Tea Party’ Governor’s bill to eliminate the right to collective bargaining for the state’s public sector employees. It was opposed by a strong and fighting movement among the public sector unions, and was opposed just as strongly by student activists from Wisconsin’s colleges and universities. The student and worker battles ended in calls for a general strike.

The immediate battles have been lost. The bill was passed and signed by the Wisconsin Governor. Workers in Wisconsin did not go out on General Strike. But there is still the feeling among American progressives that something new was born in this fight; in spite of its failure to achieve its immediate objectives.

I would argue that a new spirit has been born worldwide in recent years that has meant, once again, as in the 1960s, student movements are at the vanguard of social change in many parts of the world. For many years, the student movement in Iran has been major force in opposing the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The student movement has been a steadfast leader in the anti- and alter-globalization movements around the world (usually more steadfast that the trade unions and the political parties), and in many places has transformed these into very assertive movements.

Massive student protests were central in the recent unraveling of the North African regimes. They played and continue to play a critical role in Tunisia and in Egypt, for instance. One factor at work here is the large numbers of young people in these countries, many of whom are unable to find much in the way of economic opportunities.  A New York Times article of 30 January, 2011, entitled ‘Egyptian opposition’s old guard falls in behind young leaders’ argued: “Both newcomers and veterans of the opposition movement say it is the young Internet pioneers who remain at the vanguard behind the scenes.”

In the Caribbean, in April last year, the students of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus staged an action that was originally intended to be a 2-day strike on one campus, that turned into a strike that shut down 10 of the 11 UPR campuses, and saw students occupying the Rio Piedras Campus for 60 days. Among the issues at stake were tuition hikes, and the government’s refusal to provide adequate financial support to the university system.

In modern times, student movements have often played key roles in struggles for the transformation of the wider societies of which they are a part. Even in their most narrowly focused and parochial forms, student movements have played important roles in the democratization of education systems, in reforms and transformations to the educational curriculum, and engagements between academia and issues of wider social significance.

In the Caribbean, as in much of the world, 1968 was a watershed year for student movements. In October 1968, when UWI lecturer Dr Walter Rodney was refused re-entry to Jamaica by the Hugh Shearer government, a student group from UWI Mona held a demonstration that shut down the campus, and led a march on the Prime Minister’s office and Parliament. The chaos and destruction that followed as a result of the actions that poor and unemployed Jamaican youths also took in protest of Shearer’s ban have come to be known as the Rodney Riots.     When student movements look beyond their narrow parochial interests they can become truly significant agents of change in the societies of which they are a part. They have been a part of coalitions of forces that have helped to end wars, change budgets, change constitutions, and bring down governments.  Student movements with this wider social vision seemed to have reached their highest degree of significance in the 1960s, but in 2010 and 2011 they have shown themselves to be serious contenders in the fight for social change once again.

However, as Alex Callinicos noted in The Guardian late last year (26 December 2010), “Student demonstrators can’t do it on their own”. Students lack the collective power and the organizing ability to fundamentally transform the societies around them without making linkages, and acting in clear solidarity with other social movements, particularly the labour movement.

Callinicos writes (referring to the situation in the UK, but making an observation that is widely applicable in many other places) that “students lack the collective economic strength that, for all the setbacks it has suffered, the trade union movement still possesses”.

It is precisely this kind of student-labour alliance that caused so much hope in the case of the movement in Wisconsin, and student-labour alliances were (and continue to be) a major factor in the Egyptian revolution. There is something about the character of these kinds of alliance that gives them a tremendous amount of potential.

Perhaps it is because they bring mental and material production in their most organized forms together into a single movement. Whatever the underlying social reasons might be, student-worker movements have historically sometimes become movements for revolutionary social change.

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INSURGENT ANTHROPOLOGIES: THEORIZING WISCONSIN

originally published on As It Ought to Be on 13 March, 2011

 

“It was telling that Obama said in his 2010 State of the Union Address that universities would have to make more sacrifices in the current economy. FDR gave a similar speech once, except he called on the captains of industry and bankers to make sacrifices, not public employees and universities. We need to teach these Democrats that they need to be taking FDR as their model, not Ronald Reagan.” – Okla Elliott, Incomplete Thoughts on Wisconsin and Political Enthusiasm, AIOTB, March 3, 2011.

Okla Elliott asked here on March 3, “how do we theorize the political enthusiasm generated around the Wisconsin movement?”  He calls our attention to an important political task, and not merely to a task that is abstract and intellectual.  Andrew Levine attempts to show what is stake domestically in this battle in his article “Why Madison Matters: Endgame of the Reagan Revolution” [i].  “Almost overnight,” writes Levine, “the world changed. Madison became Ground Zero in America’s domestic class struggle; and, just as amazing, labor launched an uprising in defense of union rights which thousands of students joined.”  Okla draws our attention to the fact that we almost instinctually know that Madison matters, before we have even reasoned it through.  And knowing it matters generates an enthusiasm that is contagious, but not having reasoned it through means that the movement that this enthusiasm creates does not yet have a sufficiently “(self)-critical or theoretical component.”

In one sense, the very absence of that self-critical theoretical component is one of the keys to understanding the cultural-philosophical underpinnings of the peculiarities of American students and American labor in this instance.  Americans are the inheritors of a particularly Anglo-Saxon loathing of theory and speculation, and American capital, American labor and even American students, by and large, adopt a single dominant philosophy: pragmatism. The situation could not possibly further from that of much of North Africa and Europe, where, in recent strikes, protests and direct actions, theory and practice seem to have developed together dialectically; and there is a wide range of ways in which recent movements are theorized.  As Mao would have said, “a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend.”  In America there is no time for flowers.  In America, there is only what works.

What works, for the past 30 years, my friend Charles Brown has pointed out to me, can neatly be summarized using one word: Reaganism. Reaganism is the strange marriage of two seemingly contradictory worldviews: neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism.  What these two philosophies combined have amounted to, in their instrument effects in the world, are a justifying ideology for the global retrenchment of capitalist class power, as has been noted about neo-liberalism by David Harvey in A Brief History of Neo-liberalism, and by Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy in Capital Resurgent.

The era of industrial capitalism was theorized by Marx just as it was coming of age. Marx asserted that it created the conditions for socialism through the centralization and concentration of capital, but more importantly, it created its own gravediggers by facilitating the development of the self-consciousness of the working class through the centralization and concentration of labor in giant industrial factories. In one sense, the dwindling numbers and the inertia of labor in core capitalist countries also would seem to vindicate the notion that classical industrial workers had conditions more conducive to the development of proletarian consciousness when compared to the disarticulated, more atomized and isolated workforce that has emerged during the post-Fordist Era of production in places like the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan.  However, I would argue that the fact that capitalism since Reagan and Thatcher has taken on a more rapacious form has, in the longer term, created a consciousness of shared conditions of immiseration in much of the world, as persons from China, India, Brazil, Egypt, the American Midwest, etc., are beginning to recognize, to perhaps a greater extent than ever happened before, that they are indeed fighting the same struggle and the same fight, against the class warfare of the transnational bourgeoisie.

For the domestic scene in the United States, one factor that Andrew Levine [i] does not mention that grew out of the Reagan Revolution, is the longer-term trajectory of the disappearance of a middle class.  Alternatively framed, he does not address the longer-term disappearance of a large, relatively prosperous fraction of the American working class. These are the concrete material conditions that now show the potential to make possible in the United States the movement of coalitions and class alliances that remained largely matters of theory rather than of practical and sustainable alliances during the 1960s.  The worker-student alliance that Levine mentions, for instance, now has conditions which make it a potential that can be realized in practice and not just posed as a theory.

Levine emphasizes the fact that a student-worker alliance was impossible in the 1960s, in part because of the ‘counter-cultural affinities’ of the student movement, and because the American working class, in large part, was not supportive of the student anti-war movement.  Unlike the labor-capital pact that supported the military industrial complex of post WWII America, many more working people in the US today see a connection not between military spending and their livelihoods as workers in the military-industrial complex.  Rather, the experience of today’s working class and poor is that spending on never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has created a federal debt crisis in the US that the government attempts to partially offset through dollars saved by the destruction of what remains of a social safety net and basic social services. The same class fraction that once formed the American “labor aristocracy” now, incredibly, has begun to see the truth that Martin Luther King, Jr., among others, articulated in the U.S. during the late 1960s: that the anti-war movement, and the movement for social and economic justice in the United States, are indeed a part of the same struggle and the same fight.

At the other end of the student-worker convergence, we see students in the United States and elsewhere faced with the harsh reality that, in spite of their higher level of education, they have no reasonable basis by which to believe that they will do better, or even as well, as their parents generation did economically.  Richard Wolff has pointed out that this is the first time in American history, as far back as statistics have been kept on these matters, that the American working class has not experienced long term rising prosperity in comparison to workers of the past.  This generation has experienced the end, in effect, of the American dream – the dream of perpetual progress towards ever greater wealth and prosperity for the majority of its citizens.  Something of this same realization lies behind what has driven the recent student movement in the UK. Sparked in part by drastic tuition hikes put into place by the new Lib-Dem/Conservative coalition government, one interesting fact about the UK movement was the widespread participation of secondary school students. This is perhaps because the tuition hikes end the illusion of a meritocracy, and signal that even those poor and working class students who worked hard and achieved high test scores will increasingly be locked out of tertiary education. Locked out of the possibility of rising above their class by way of higher education, poor and working class students face a bleak future, with dwindling opportunities for employment without further education, accompanied by dwindling opportunities for advancement by pursuing diplomas and degrees through the university system.

Simultaneous with the convergence of the material interests of students and workers, there has been, at least at the rank-and-file level, the emergence of a genuinely multi-cultural/multi-racial labor movement in the United States. While much of established white labor only came on board with the goals of the Civil Rights movement slowly and begrudgingly during the 1960s, the old slogans of “same struggle and same fight” have actually become a part of the lived reality of a greater part of American labor, and have become an institutional reality at the level of rank-and-file union membership during the years of the hegemony of Reaganism. The attack on private sector unions having largely been successful, and the greater representation of people of color in the ranks of the public sector unions, combined with the gradual realization on the part of labor leaders that a large part of the hope of recruiting new union members and reviving the labor movement lie in organizing some sections of the working class where African Americans, Latinos, and immigrants and people of color generally are disproportionately found.  These are the low wage service sector, the remaining low wage agricultural and industrial jobs, and the public sector.

While there may be a significant contingent of the non-white middle class, that believes, along with Barack Obama and Bill Cosby, that the United States has largely become a “post-racial” country, the lived experience of the majority of African Americans, Latinos, and other oppressed minorities tells us a different story.  What establishes the basis for recognition of real common material interests is the fact that the white working class, the old labor aristocracy, has largely been decimated, and has also experienced, albeit to a lesser degree, declining material conditions during a time with capitalist elites are richer and more powerful than ever.

Furthermore, at the level of its leadership, trade unionists in the United States have gradually recognized that adopting an anti-immigrant stance is counter-productive, and that labor’s goals should not be to fight against the immigrant worker, but rather fight alongside these workers against the common enemy of the transnational capitalist class.  Shared reasons to oppose NAFTA were perhaps one turning point here.  This recognition by trade unionists, however, has not yet had the sufficient power to challenge anti-immigrant ideologies that we see spreading like wild-fire among some fractions of the American working class, leading them to vote against their real material interests as they hear right wing populists and nationalists falsely blaming the decline of the material prosperity of the American working class on the competition it receives from immigrant labor and from the relocation of industrial production to the developing world.

The Tea Party faction of the Republican Party, which came to power electorally during the mid-term elections of 2010, has been making some of the last moves in the “Endgame of the Reagan Revolution”. It came to power on the basis of thinly veiled racism against a black president.  It came to power on the basis of xenophobia, nationalism, and anti-immigrant sympathy.  It came to power by appealing to cultural wedge issues that obfuscate what is at stake for working class people economically. Portraying themselves as the representatives of, and counting on the continuous support of, white, working class Middle America, once in power their main actions are aimed at stripping away what remains of a degree of hope and dignity on the part of working class Americans.  As they are really the representatives of the most reactionary factions of big capital, the Tea Party cannot operate in any other manner than to shed pretenses, to take off its mask, and bring the illusions of Reaganism to an end.  They can no longer wear Ronald Reagan’s happy face.  They must reveal themselves finally as what many of us argued they were from the start: corporate goons, creeping Fascists in sheep’s clothing.  And they came first for the trade unionists.

While the Endgame is being played out domestically in the United States, where a breaking point has been reached, a breaking point has also been reached internationally.  Internationally, as well, the strange bedfellows of neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism have played themselves out.  Internationally, there is a populist revolt against the cumulative effects of the increasingly rapacious character of capital as it has developed over the past 30 years.  There is also a concerted effort on the part of entrenched power around the world to crush this populist rebellion by any means necessary.

On March 3, Okla Elliott wrote here at As It Ought to Be, that “mass movements that do not have a (self-)critical or theoretical component have a habit of either failing or turning into things almost as bad as what they sought to depose.”  Commenting on his piece, I echoed this sentiment by saying:

“Improperly theorized political movements have little chance of achieving long term success, and failed movements can sometimes strengthen the hand of reactionaries. Nazism and Fascism, for instance, moved in to fill the void left by the failure of workers’ movements in Germany and Italy. And in Egypt today, only daring to struggle and daring to win will ensure that a new Egyptian military regime does not emerge that is even more repressive than the Mubarak regime that it overthrew.”

Similarly, in the U.S. and Western Europe, neo-Fascism looks on hopefully at the legislative defeats experienced by labor in the United States.  Legislative failures that have come in spite of resistance such as that in Wisconsin, where the largest protests that have taken place in the United States since the Vietnam War occurred.  Neo-Fascists look on with glee as they come for the trade unionists.

Meanwhile, there is an active, engaged, and very real populist revolt that will not be easily persuaded to give up rights to collective bargaining even if the manner in which these rights have been stripped away is deemed as legal and constitutional.  Contained within this revolt is the potential that the political enthusiasm it generates will, at long last, awaken the sleeping giant of the American working class.  On February 21st, Wisconsin’s South Central Federation of Labor voted to endorse a general strike opposing Governor Walker’s bill that would, among other things, eliminate the right to collective bargaining.

Calling any kind of solidarity strike is against the law under currently existing American Labor Law as defined in the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.  American Labor has not called for actions like General Strikes in the United States since the time of the Great Depression.  Hopefully this is a sign that the sleeping giant is awakening, because if it is not, then we will certainly have a world that is more oppressive and totalitarian than the one that we have had up to now.  The fundamental theoretical question that we must ask is not one that is new.  It is one that has been thrown up repeatedly during capitalism’s major crises.  It is largely agreed that we are at the greatest moment of crisis that has been faced since the Great Depression.  The question that we must ask today is fundamentally the same as the burning question of that earlier crisis: do we want to fight for a world that would move us closer towards socialism, or do we want to accept a world where big capital day-by-day makes the world ever more barbaric?

SUPPORT A WORLDWIDE GENERAL STRIKE FROM THIS DAY UNTIL CAPITAL IS PUT IN ITS PLACE.




[i] Andrew Levine, 2011  “Why Madison Matters: Endgame of the Reagan Revolution”, CounterPunch, Vol. 18 No. 4, pg. 5-6.

The Egyptian Struggle May Inspire A Working Class Struggle Against Entrenched Power In Many Other Parts of the World.

This is the version of the previous post in the form that it appeared in the print edition of Stabroek News, Thursday 3 March, 2011

By Christopher Carrico

Anthropology Programme

University of Guyana

photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy

 

This was originally going to be a History This Week article for Stabroek News when I was last scheduled to write for this column.  Unfortunately, the analysis of Egypt which I had embarked on at the time turned out to be far more complicated than I had initially anticipated. I did not realize that my article was not deliverable until too late, and Stabroek News was left in the unfortunate situation of having no History This Week article to print for that week.

However, I continued forward with the essay, and because of the timeliness of the material that I was writing about, I chose to publish this piece as a blog on As It Ought to Be (asitoughttobe.com) on 13 February, 2011.  The blog post generated enough interest to be picked up by the Pan-African newsletter, Pambazuka (www.pambazuka.org), later that week.  Pambazuka summarized my argument as ‘”Whether Egypt’s association with US-backed capitalism has been disrupted is a question that factory workers might yet decide,” writes Christopher Carrico.’

I offer the article now for the space where it was originally intended.  It is offered here in an edited version, but I have made no attempt to bring the article up-to-date on the state of the situation.  I felt this was best because it was an essay written ‘in the heat of the moment’ on one Sunday in mid-February, when millions of Egyptians were ecstatically celebrating the removal from power of President Hosni Mubarak.  To bring the article up-to-date, or to think about these events in the context of the current situation in Libya, would require completely different article than this one, which was meant to reflect on a very specific moment of time, and to share my reflections on this particular moment with a Guyanese audience via Stabroek News.

Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt from 14 October, 1981 until February 11, 2011. Vice President Omar Suleiman announced Mubarak’s resignation to the Egyptian public and to the world, and state power was handed over to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, a body of the 18 highest-ranking officers who head the Egyptian military. As of Sunday, 13 February, the Egyptian military has dissolved parliament, suspended the Constitution, and imposed a military junta that has declared itself an interim government responsible for overseeing an ‘orderly transition’ to civilian rule in six months time.

What I have to say here is largely based on the reports of people like Hossam el-Hamalawy, Web 2.0 Activist, and member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist party.  In explaining the power that blogs, Facebook, and twitter have had in the popular movements in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world, el-Hamalawy notes that ‘Nearly 20 million out of 85 million Egyptians have access to the Internet, but its strength lies in the fact the traditional media have themselves begun to use it as a source of information’.

El-Hamalawy wrote in his blog 3arabawy (www.arabawy.org) that:

(Middle class) activists want us to trust Mubarak’s generals with the transition to democracy — the same junta that has provided the backbone of his dictatorship over the past 30 years.  And while I believe the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who receive $1.3 billion (US Dollars) annually from the US, will eventually engineer the transition to a “civilian” government, I have no doubt it will be a government that will guarantee the continuation of a system that will never touch the army’s privileges, keep the armed forces as the institution that will have the final say in politics… (and) guarantee Egypt will continue to follow… US foreign policy…

Reform-oriented opposition leaders had been ‘urging Egyptians to suspend the protests and return to work, in the name of patriotism.’ Most of the crowd in Tahrir Square dissipated.  Thousands of hold-outs, however, insisted that the setting up of military rule does not meet the main demands of their protest, and refused to leave the Square.  The military indicated that it would use force if necessary to return Cairo to ‘normalcy.’  And the military police fairly rapidly removed the majority of the remaining protestors from Cairo’s streets.

But Hossam el-Hamalawy has made a critical observation that has largely been ignored in the Western media, ‘Whether Tahrir Square occupation continues or not, the real fight is now in the factories.’ As of the time of 7 February, el-Hamalawy reported in an interview with the French NPA (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste), that:

There are four hotbeds of economic struggle: a [steel] mill in Suez, a fertilizer factory in Suez, a textile factory near Mansoura in Daqahlia (the Mansoura-España garment factory in the Nile Delta region) on strike — they have fired their CEO and are self-managing their enterprise.  There is also a print shop in southern Cairo called Dar al-Matabi: there, too, they fired their CEO and are self-managing the enterprise.  But, while workers are participating in the demonstrations, they are not developing their own independent action as workers.  We still have not seen workers independently organize themselves en masse.  If that comes, all the equation of the struggle will change.

El-Hamalawy’s twitter feed, his blog, and like-minded others, such as the contributors to #egyworkers have been providing us with encouraging news such as:

  • The temporary workers in Helwan Steel Mills staged a sit in, south of Cairo.
  • Thousands of Public Transport workers demonstrated in el-Gabal el-Ahmar in Nasr City.
  • Railway technicians continued to bring the countries trains to a halt.
  • Around 5,000 workers in El-Hawamdiya Sugar Factory went on strike.
  • Oil workers struck over economic demands, to impeach the Petroleum Minister, and halt subsidized gas exports to Israel.

And the list goes on and on.  El-Hamalawy wrote:

Some have been surprised that the workers started striking. I really don’t know what to say. This is completely idiotic. The workers have been staging the longest and most sustained strike wave in Egypt’s history since 1946, triggered by the Mahalla strike in December 2006. It’s not the workers’ fault that you were not paying attention to their news. Every single day over the past three years there was a strike in some factory whether it’s in Cairo or the provinces.

As intoxicating and encouraging as all of this sounds, Reuters reported that ‘Egypt’s new military rulers will soon issue a warning… against anyone who creates “chaos and disorder”’.

The Military also banned meetings by labour unions or professional syndicates, effectively forbidding strikes, and told all Egyptians to get back to work after the unrest that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

El-Hamalawy reminds us that ‘when the army took over in 1952, (the) first thing they did was execut(e) two strike leaders at (the) Kafr el-Dawwar textile mill.’

It is exactly the emergence of even more repressive regimes, intent on a struggle to the death to put the breaks on a workers’ revolution in the Arab world, that Vijay Prashad warned of when he wrote that ‘if power is not seized, counter-revolution will rise.’

Prashad’s examples of the potential dangers in this case included the rise of Islamist parties.  In Egypt, it is the Muslim Brotherhood that is best organized. But it seems fairly clear that in Egypt, as had always been the case in Pakistan, the real force to be reckoned with is the military, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s power mainly deriving from its mutually opportunistic relationship with the Egyptian Armed Forces.

One would expect that the prospect of a military dictatorship, with links to radical Islamists would be an alarming prospect to established powers in the United States and Israel.  In all actuality, this is as nearly opposite the case as can be possible.  It is the United States and Israel that have mainly been responsible for the also mutually opportunistic relationship between the established powers in Cairo, and the established powers in Washington and Jerusalem.  Samir Amin describes the ambitions of the military and the Muslim Brotherhood as follows:

‘The military and the Muslim Brotherhood accept the hegemony of the United States in the region and the existing terms of peace with Israel.  And their complacency continues to help permit Israel’s continued colonization of what remains of Palestine.

The reason for this is not some Zionist plot, or some secret conspiracy between Mubarak, Israel, and Washington.  The reason for this is the open agreement between all parties on the existing parameters of the established order: the established order of capitalism under US hegemony.  This includes the Muslim Brotherhood.  Amin also writes that:

‘The key is that everyone accepts capitalism as it is. The Muslim Brotherhood has never considered changing things so seriously. Besides at major workers’ strikes of 2007-2008, their MPs voted with the government against the strikers. Faced with the struggles of peasants evicted from their land by large landowners, the Muslim Brotherhood took part against the peasant movement. For them the private property, free enterprise and profit are sacred.’

What would really be a threat to the Egyptian military, to United States foreign policy interests, to the Israeli state, and to established capitalist powers in the region, would not be the emergence of a new Islamic extremist party in alliance with the Egyptian military: after all that has simply been the status quo of the Mubarak years.  What would really be a threat to these established powers is if the idea of socialism caught on in the Arab world, and beyond.  And if the popular classes of nations around the world were inspired by Egypt to take concrete actions that challenge entrenched power in their own nation-states.